"The current crisis in higher education has three characteristics: it’s overpriced, out of touch (with society’s real needs), and outdated (in its method and purpose)." Otto Scharmer, U.Lab: Seven Principles for Revolutionizing Higher Ed.
Our Oakland focused Ulab at Impact HUB Oakland is wrapping up in the coming weeks. In many ways, the ULab is already prototyping a new method of education with a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), "a true 21st-century model of higher education, is already emerging: it’s free (or accessible to everyone), it’s empowering (putting the learner into the driver’s seat of profound personal, professional, and societal renewal), and it’s transformational (providing new learning environments that activate the deepest human capacities to create — both individually and collectively)." In Seven Principles for Revolutionizing Higher Ed, Otto Scharmer outlines how our work in this global community is already transforming these outdated systems.
Otto writes: "The U.Lab is a small first step into this new global territory. We don’t know how big the opportunity is to reimagine education by engaging the global social field more intentionally. But it does feel like a significant beginning. Most of the coaching circles, Hubs, and learners are now organizing around countless prototyping initiatives that they will pursue going forward—way beyond the formal end of the class."
In the U.Lab, the learning isn't in the classroom. It is decentralized, and most of the learning is outsider of the classroom altogether. Some powerful principles and actions are emerging "that have the potential to revolutionize higher education. Here are seven of them:
(1) Streets: Move learning from the classroom (or computer) to the street.
(2) Head, Heart & Hand: Link the power of entrepreneurship with passion and compassion.
(3) Stillness: The new axis of learning & leadership requires us to connect to our sources of self-knowledge.
(4) Holding Space: Activate the self-organizing potential of networks to generate transformative “deep learning” experiences.
(5) Tools: Provide methods and tools for co-sensing and co-shaping the emerging future.
6) Deep Data: Move from big data to “deep data.”
(7) Social Fields: Closing the feedback loop between collective awareness and collective action. "
Several new prototype opportunities have emerged for me personally from these very principles in the MIT U.Lab course. I wrote about one of opportunity here, sharing my participation in the Rauschenberg Residency where we launched our year long group pilot by exploring the question: "What would creative leadership education look like to create the outcomes we want for our future?" This article provides a great framework for this question and I will be mapping the U.lab process and principles onto the Rauschenberg Residency prototype as teh year unfolds. I will share more about emerging prototypes here in the next few posts.
-Sarah R. Filley
ULab and Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0
Photo: Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0 Summary Report
What does a global initiative of wellness look like? This blog will have a series of posts about my own journey co-facilitating the Ulab, a methodology for personal and social change.
This post shares how the ULab methodology was applied to a larger Lab of global change makers to address Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0, an action-learning platform, co-founded by the GIZ Global Leadership Academy (GLAC)  (Germany), the Presencing Institute (Cambridge, MA), and the Gross National Happiness Centre (Bhutan) to advance new ways of generating and measuring wellbeing at multiple levels in society.
They recently released a report encapsulating their journey since 2013. Here is how they describe the ULab process:
"Theory UThe Lab was designed on the principles of Theory U – an innovation process that individuals and groups can use to suspend habitual ways of paying attention, access deeper sources of knowing, and explore the future they want to create through rapid-cycle prototyping. Developed by Lab co-facilitator Otto Scharmer along with colleagues at MIT, Theory U has been field-tested in multi-stakeholder innovation processes around the world over the past two decades.
One way the U process differs from other innovation processes is in its emphasis on co-sensing. Co-sensing helps us connect with and tune in to the contexts that matter; moving into a state of seeing in which the boundary between observer and observed begins to collapse and in which the system begins to see itself.
One of the key U-based methods we use in the Lab is learning journeys (sometimes called sensing journeys). A learning journey is a deep-dive immersion into places that have the potential to teach us about the emerging future. To prepare for learning journeys, participants are coached to not only look for innovative solutions, but also pay particular attention to the way they are paying attention: to look for information that disconfirms their own expectations and to interact with the key innovators and stakeholders in that community with an open mind and open heart. We will describe the specific learning journeys in more detail below."
I like how they paid attention to an aspect of change work that is often characterized as friction, but I think this friction is often where the heat of innovation forges new outcomes: "
Three key characteristics underpin the nature of social labs in our view:
This year, I have the privilege of co-facilitating MIT's Ulab MOOC with over 75,000 participants focused on the theme of the Future of Cities. In partnership with The Institute for the Future and the Global network of Impact Hub's we are exploring leading from the emerging future through an incredible framework to understand systems thinking and change: "Transforming Business, Society, and Self, a global movement to build a new economy by co-sensing and co-creating the emerging future.
Midway through the "U" I experienced a new awareness of the political and social systems defining our moment in history. I could feel these systems as closed systems, outdated, and and sensed that something new was required to connect and adabt the existing systems in order for them to operate together. I was searching for a Theory of Interoperability.
I walked into Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and saw it. A free and open source 3D printable Universal Construction Kit (http://fffff.at/free-universal-construction-kit/) which connects any type of building kit (e.g. legos) to any other type of building kit (e.g. Tinkertoys).
This was the new "universal language" hybrid model, a way to join one or more closed systems together to form a new outcome. This is a perfect metaphor and provides a new vocabulary for interoperability which also hints at how we might transform social systems that are functioning in isolation, and therefore not innovating. We talk about cross-sector collaboration, collective impact, and de-siloing our work in order to achieve better outcomes, but we still seem to be creating outcomes that no one wants. The ways in which we collaborate seem clunky, because they are. We have hacked our 20th century models into various prototypes because these systems are not designed to go together, just like trying to get a lego piece to fit with a tinker toy. The Universal language of connectivity provides a metaphor for connecting these closed systems to work together in the 21c and help us prototype new solutions.
I use this model of interoperability to prototype certain "Hard" solutions to connect, de- silo, and join together systems, ideas, business in new models of working together to create innovative solutions based on collaboration and co-operation. "Synching" organizations, departments, or even community assets within a planning context, can yield great results. This process works when a new "thing" has to be created in order to work better together. Sometimes it is policy, process, or it is shifting the place and its shape. Yet, in our work in communities sometimes the process of transformation, either personally or collectively feels much more terrifying, like a cliff with no bridge to the other side. What is required then?
Next I will talk about the "soft" solution that addresses what happens when we need to dissolve the systems all together. What is the metaphor for systems change, for disruption and dissolution? What is a metaphor that helps us let go in order for something new to emerge?